“There are no ordinary moments.” Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
During a challenging run or race, there can be a lot of time in which the mind can wander and look for ways to occupy itself. A myriad of thoughts can enter your mind, for me it’s most often, “why did I decide to do this again?!” Staying focused yet relaxed, and being in the moment may be an important component of training and racing. How else can a runner get through what the marathon (or any challenging run or race) can ask of the mind and the body? So this past summer, I decided to try to learn meditation again, but this time I really wanted to learn it properly and commit to the process. Research shows that meditation can improve sleep, decrease stress, improve relationships, as well as other positive impacts.
How meditation affected my running:
- It helped me realize the worries I had about my running related activities that needed resolving.
- My appetite and intuition about food changed. I felt like my mind told my body what was needed for recovery and what it didn’t need. The two were communicating much more effectively.
- It helped me learn to relax during a training run, and this also translated to race day. I learned how to focus on some other chosen point (for example the trees or the sky) when needed to help stay focused on the moment and not on any discomfort I was feeling.
- Meditation taught me how to allow thoughts to enter my mind, acknowledge them without judgment, and then let them go. When a negative thought came into my mind, I didn’t judge it, but moved on, instead of letting it take over my run.
- Meditation taught me to remember one of the reasons why I run, which is to take in the world around me. During some harder runs, I learned to refocus on the fall leaves or the beautiful sky, instead of how hard my run was feeling.
- During a race, sometimes the weather conditions or other things happening around me can be distracting or cause negative thoughts to enter my mind. For example, during my last race running over a bridge, I noticed the head wind was strong and creating a challenge, but I also noted that it was refreshing, and would eventually pass. The pain or discomfort I felt from the strong winds did not become all encompassing of the racing experience, because it was only a piece of it, not the main component. Meditation helped me learn to stay relaxed, to look at the strong head wind as part of this racing process, to feel indifferent about it instead of worried. I felt the same way about the pain felt during the last 6-8 miles of the marathon–I tried to stay neutral and calm about it instead of letting it take over my experience in any negative way.
If you are interested in learning how to meditate, I recommend the app Headspace. It is great for beginners or those who are more experienced in meditation, easy to use, and even has an entire section on sports meditation.